On Sunday, Feb. 21, a fire engulfed a Megabus just outside of Chicago. Megabus, which has a fleet of some 275 buses, carries about 10 million passengers every year, sometimes at fares as low as $1.00.
This vehicle was carrying 40 passengers from Chicago to Minneapolis when it caught fire on Route 41 in Lake Forest. All passengers escaped without injury, but there was considerable destruction of passengers' belongings and damage to the bus itself.
Passengers reported seeing smoke coming from one of the bus's tires. While investigators are still looking into the cause of the crash, the company has been plagued by incidents involving blown tires.
The company was already under scrutiny from federal safety officials. Over the past two years, safety inspectors have cited Megabus for 29 maintenance violations that were deemed to be imminent hazards to those on board.
The company is also facing at least one lawsuit that claims the buses are overloaded. An official with the Center for Auto Safety confirms the connection between weight and tire safety, saying, "If a bus is overweight, in a worse-case scenario the tires can rub against the wheel well which generates friction, heat, and ultimately a fire."
According to the safety official, buses are weighed to ensure that they do not exceed weight limits. However, he says that this weighing occurs before passengers and baggage are loaded on.
The issues with Megabus tires appear to go back farther than two years however. In 2012, an Illinois graduate student died in a crash that reportedly was caused by a blown time. The crash sent 47 passengers to the hospital with injuries. At least five other Megabus crashes and other incidents have been linked to blown tires, including one in which the bus hit a guard rail on Interstate 95.
A Megabus statement after this latest incident said that the company is "fully cooperating with the authorities." It also said that "safety continues to be our top priority."
When Chicagoans take any form of public transportation, we have to place some level of trust in the safety and maintenance of the vehicle. When the company that owns that vehicle fails to abide by safety regulations, it can and should be held legally responsible. Sometimes the threat of civil lawsuits can be even more of an incentive for companies to abide by the rules than the threat of fines.
Source: CBS News, "Chicago Megabus fire latest in string of tire-related disasters," Don Dahler, Feb. 22, 2016